Universtiy of Miami Miller School of Medicine Graduate Studies

Richard P. Bunge Memorial Lecture

Richard P. Bunge, MD in his lab

In September, 1996, Dr. Richard P. Bunge, director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and a close friend and colleague died of cancer. In his memory, an annual lectureship was established for the Neuroscience Program at the University of Miami.

Richard P. Bunge, MD, was at the forefront of research efforts to understand and improve the processes of repair in the nervous system. In his student days, he discovered that myelin could be broken down and then reformed in the adult mammalian spinal cord, a revolutionary idea in the 1960s. This work led to discovery of the mechanism of CNS myelination and the demonstration of the connections between forming myelin and oligodendrocytes. He and his colleagues developed a cell culture system in which myelination could be studied systematically, enabling fundamental discoveries elucidating the process underlying Schwann cell-neuron interactions. These included control of proliferation and the role of the cell of Schwann in promoting regeneration of central and peripheral neurons. He proposed, in 1975, the idea that cellular grafts, particularly of Schwann cells, could be used to improve repair in the CNS. He pioneered studies of the biology of adult human Schwann cells as a prelude to possible autotransplantation into sites of spinal cord injury in the human. In 1990, he initiated an extensive and detailed characterization of the pathology of human spinal cord injury, which provided novel and fundamental insights into the nature of that injury, including demyelination and axonal degeneration.

After obtaining his MD from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1960, Richard Bunge went to Columbia University to learn the technique of nerve tissue culture with Dr. Margaret R. Murray, a pioneer in this field. He then held faculty appointments in Anatomy at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1962 to 1970, and in Anatomy and Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis from 1970 to 1988, before becoming Scientific Director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. While in Miami, The Miami Project gained national recognition within the scientific community as a focused, cohesive center for research related to spinal cord injury. Dr. Bunge held the Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery. He received numerous honors, including Javits research awards from the NIH, the Friedrich von Rechlinghausen Award for the Advancement of Medical Sciences in Neurofibromitosis, the University of Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association Medicals Alumni Citation, the Gordon Conference of Myelin Chairmans Award, and the prestigious Wakeman Award for his pioneering work in tissue culture and cellular biology of fetal cells, transplantation, and detailed descriptions of human spinal cord injury.

Richard P. Bunge Lecturers have included:

2018 Connie Cepko, PhD
Harvard Medical School
Cell Fate Determination in the Retina and Preservation of Cone Survival
2017 Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne
Bing Presidential Professor, President, Stanford University
Sculpting Neuronal Connections: The Logic and Mechanisms of Axon Growth and Pruning
2016 Dr. Martin Chalfie
University Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University
Determining Neuronal Fate in C. elegans
2015 Dr. Ehud Isacoff
/California Institute of Technology
CNS Light-gated neurotransmitter receptors: from molecular mechanism to circuit function
2014 Dr. Robin Franklin
Wellcome Trust - MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute
CNS Remyelination: From Mechanisms to Medicines
2013 Dr. Lawrence Wrabetz
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Pathogenesis in Hereditary Demyelinating Neuropathies: Toxic Mechanisms Target Development
2012 Dr. Jeremy Brockes
University College London, School of Life and Medical Sciences
The Nerve Dependence of Vertebrate Limb Regeneration
2011 Dr. Chien-Ping Ko
University of Southern California
Synapse-Glia Interactions in the Neuromuscular System
2010 Dr. Marianne Bronner-Fraser
California Institute of Technology
Gene Regulatory Network Governing Neural Crest Formation
2008 Dr. James L. Salzer
New York University
Smilow Research Center
Axo-Glial Interactions that Direct Assembly of Myelinated Nerves
2007 Dr. William Snider
University of North Carolina
School of Medicine
Dissection of Neurotrophin Signaling Pathways by Mouse Genetics
2006 Dr. Lynn Landmesser
Case Western Reserve University
Novel Roles of NCAM Isoforms in Synaptic Maturation and Function
2005 Dr. Rita Balice-Gordon
University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine
Mechanisms Underlying Synaptogenesis: Insights from Mice and Zebrafish
2004 Dr. Wes Thompson
University of Texas
Using Transgenics to Examine the Role of Schwann Cells at the Neuromuscular Junction
2003 Dr. Eugene M. Johnson, Jr.
Washington University in St. Louis
School of Medicine
Trophic Factor Deprivation-Induced Neuronal Death
2002 Dr. Jeff Lichtman
Washington University in St. Louis
Monitoring Synapses in Flourescent Mice
2001 Dr. Mu Ming Poo
UC Berkeley
Mechanisms in Axon Guidance
2000 Dr. David R. Colman
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Common Cell Adhesion Molecules of Myelin and the CNS Synapse: Structure, Evolution, and Function
1999 Dr. Thomas M. Jessell
Columbia University
The Molecular Control of Motor Neuron Identity and Connectivity
1998 Dr. Joshua Sanes
Washington University in St. Louis
Genetic Analysis of Synapse Formation in Mice
1997 Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach
Washington University in St. Louis
Neuregulin Regulation of Synapses and Glia